Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Toll of Chronic Stress & Some Ayurvedic Tools

Stress is something that many people feel everyday.  It is something they come to accept and may not know how to manage it. 

The classic definition of stress is "any real or imagined threat, and your body's response to it." Celebrations and tragedies alike can cause a stress response in your body. Some stress is unavoidable. Some mild forms of stress can even be helpful in some situations. But a stressor becomes a problem when:
  • Your response to it is negative.
  • Your feelings and emotions are inappropriate for the circumstances.
  • Your response lasts an excessively long time.
  • You're feeling continuously overwhelmed, overpowered or overworked.
It's important to realize that all your feelings create physiological changes. Your skin, heart rate, digestion and assimilation of food, joints, muscle energy levels, the hair on your head, and countless cells and systems you don't even know about change with every emotion. For example, feeling chronically stressed:
  1. Dramatically decreases blood flow to your digestive system, which makes it harder to digest food.  Eating may cause digestive disturbances like heartburn, flatulence, constipation, diarrhea, and food sensitivities.  It may decrease enzymatic output in your gut by as much as 20,000-fold, so eating can cause stomach pain.  The digestive system lacks the ability to digest if there are no enzymes produced by the body.
  2. Decreases your metabolism, so it is easier to gain weight.
  3. Causes excretion of nutrients, such as water-soluble vitamins, calcium, micro- and macro minerals, so people become malnourished and may experience lack of energy and immunity.
  4. Raises triglycerides, which can create an inflammatory environment in the body.
  5. Raises cholesterol, which can cause cardiovascular disease.
  6. Decreases beneficial gut flora populations, which can weaken your immune function and the ability to digest.
  7. Raises cortisol levels, which changes the body's functions and can stress the adrenal glands.
  8. Raises insulin levels, which can put one at risk for diabetes.
Ayurveda has helpful strategies that can help you deal with stress and unwind each day. It does this by strengthening the pillars of health.  Exercise is a natural way to bring your body pleasurable relaxation and rejuvenation, because during exercise, tranquilizing chemicals (endorphins) are released in your brain. Lack of  adequate sleep can impair your memory, which will negatively impair your performance on physical or mental tasks.  It will hurt your ability to deal with stressful situations in a productive way.  Even a single night of poor sleep, meaning sleeping only 4 to 6 hours, can impact your ability in these areas.  Strengthening digestion by eating meals at regular times in a relaxed way will help offset some of the digestive issues caused by stress.  It is also important to eat natural, fresh and unprocessed foods, which are easier to digest.  Finally, meditation helps stabilize thought patterns which will bring clarity to the mind and its ability to take positive action.  

It is important to realize that when we deal with stress on a holistic level using many approaches we have a better chance of managing our health.  Ayurveda offers these tools in a natural way so that we can become self reliant.

Stay healthy & well,

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